The endless summer is over, hurricane swells are finally on the horizon, and it’s time to get back in the water and do some surfing here on the Isle of Wight. But before I dive into the sea and finally wash away those months of calm sea summer blues, I’m blogging today about the new snowboarding documentary film I’ve just seen called ” The Art of Flight“.
Produced by a team comprising Quiksilver, Red Bull‘s new media division “Red Bull Media House“, and “Brain Farm Cinema“, a boutique production house that specialises in “aerial cinematography” and two years in the making, the film sets out to redefine what is possible in the mountains.
Snowboarding legend Travis Rice handpicks a group of riders from the best the snowboarding world has to offer to join him on his quest. From Olympic medalists to big mountain slayers, this group of snowboarders is the best of the best, including John Jackson, Mark Landvik, Scotty Lago, Nicolas Müller, DCP, Jake Blauvelt, Pat Moore, Jeremy Jones, Mark McMorris and others.
The first thing to say right away is, I’m not a snowboarder. I’ve always wanted to give it a go, but apart from mucking around on Tennyson down with my mates in the 6 inches of frozen chaos that closed the UK down last winter, and the occasional bout of Wii Winter Sports on the balance board, I have never had the opportunity. So I’m not qualified to rate this film from a technical point of view. But, I am a surfer and i do love following Extreme Sports, travelling and photography, and I found the film really appealing to me on all three levels.
1. The Art of Flight – Viewing it as a traveller
One of the things that sets the film apart from lots of action sports films is the integration of a storyline, which highlights the highs and lows of traveling to massively remote locations. Chilean Patagonia’s Darwin Range, Alaska’s Tordrillo Range, Wyoming’s Snake River Range, Aspen Colorado, the Andes, and British Columbia’s Kootenay Mountains, Revelstoke and Goat Range are the epic stages for this pumped production. In that respect, it feels like some of my favourite independent surf movies, and maybe even a little like the aforementioned all-time classic, “endless summer”, in heading to previously uncharted territories for the sport and showing the adventures and dramas that are inevitable on such a journey.
2. The Art of Flight – Viewing it as a surfer…
…which in many ways is another ‘extreme sport’ (just not when you’re long boarding 3ft beach break at Compton bay on the Isle of Wight). I was blown away by the sheer athleticism of the riders and the incredible Tricks and stunts they were pulled off. Mark McMorris,17-year-old snowboarder, lands an enormous Triple Cork 1440 (that’s three inverted manoeuvres paired with four complete lateral rotations – the newest, biggest trick in snowboarding) then stomps it during the Aspen/Snowmass shoot.
It wasn’t till a while after I had finished watching that I remembered my age and the reality that my chance of doing anything quite like this has probably passed me by – in this life at least.
So, I can’t directly relate any of my small wave experiences to the monster mountain scenes in the movie, but the whole dropping from a helicopter thing reminded me of watching extreme surf movies from Teahaupo (Fiji) or Jaws (Hawaii) and people being towed into monster waves. And i do know that the step up to that from recreational surfing along the UK coast is beyond most of us mere mortals and I suspect 99.99% of recreational snowboarders won’t be falling from the sky anytime soon either!
I’m no great shakes as a surfer, but i can catch a decent ride on a good day. For the record, I’ve paddled out a few times in what most of us would call proper scary surf, in a range of say between 6 and 10ft of proper groundswell (= double overhead and a bit surf), once or twice here on the island, a few times in Cornwall and Devon and a few times overseas. And I can confirm that it was more than enough and there’s no way I would have the ability and balls to take on the 30ft + stuff that people get towed into!
So to conclude that ramble down memory lane with something approaching a point, I’m pretty sure most snowboarders aren’t up to taking on the slopes and situations shown in this movie either. But that’s not why we watch them is it? We want to be excited and terrified and blown away by the sheer madness of it all and get some kicks by living vicariously through watching the pros perform tricks we can only dream of. And, in that respect, this film really delivers as Travis and his mates take the action to a new level.
3. The Art of Flight – Viewing it as a photographer
I was genuinely mesmorised by the incredible cinematography and beauty of it all and i couldn’t help thinking that there are any number of frames that would be worth sitting and contemplating as a still image in an art exhibition.
The unusual angles and dramatic camera techniques give us the viewer a really immersive experience and must be as close as you can get to actually being there yourself, whilst still sitting on a sofa,
And on a personal note… was it really shot with a canon EOS camera? Could i shoot that sort of quality with my 7D? This film made me want to get out there and start shooting video myself if that’s what they are capable of! Surely that high definition slo-mo stuff is made using top-end equipment? It looks like some of the best work from the BBC natural history department (the amazing ‘blue planet’ series comes to mind).
So, there you go! All in all I’d say it’s a pretty amazing piece of film making. But you don’t have to take my word for it – you can see it for yourselves now. It’s available on iTunes and you can find out more on the film’s website: www.redbull.com/artofflight, including rider profiles, photo stories and related articles.